The tattoo has evolved from “macho-man” ink, to some of the most beautiful art you will ever see. I sometimes joke as to why people would pay to go to art museums when they can walk around anywhere and see people wearing art. A tattoo can be a center-piece for a great conversation.
I have met some very amazing people and built friendships after simply complimenting them on their artwork. When meeting some tattoo artists, you will find that the majority of them became tattoo artists through another form of art such as painting, drawing, graphic design, and even beautiful graffiti art.
When traveling through this industry, It is a brother and sisterhood like no other with a lifetime of bonds to each other. If ever given the chance, I recommend you go to a tattoo convention; you will not be disappointed, as there is so much to see and learn. In this post I would like to share a little history and about inks. So Let’s begin.
A little History About Tattoos
The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian word “Tatu” which means “to mark something”. The oldest recorded tattoo found by scientists was 61 tattoos found on a Tyrolean Iceman Otzi’s body who was believed to have died around 3250 BC. Even though it’s not recorded, scientists believe tattoos may even date further back then that.
In ancient Egypt and India tattoos were used as healing methods and as marking status in society. Up until the late 1960s, they were considered to be uncivilized and were mainly worn by sailors, bikers, working class men, and prisoners. At the turn of the 20th century, tattoos became widely accepted in subculture, marking a new era to come.
You can say that today they have become part of pop culture. A study done by the Pew Research Center concluded that 36 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 to 25, have at least 1 tattoo. In 2011 Mattel even came out with a Barbie that has a tattoo. Today, even people in the corporate world are inked. I would guess that 1 out of every 5 corporate workers have ink under their 3 piece suit or dress.
The world record holder for ink is a man by the name of Lucky Rich who spent over 1000 hours to have his body 100 percent inked. The record holder in the womens department is Charlotte Guttenburg who has 98.75 percent of her body covered.
Every culture has a reason for being inked that you could spend hours researching about. Ink today is of the norm and is not shunned upon, like in years past, and is coveted by much of society.
What Inks are Made of
Tattoo inks are solutions that consist of a carrier and a colorant. The carrier is the solution that will carry the colorant to the location of application. It may contain glycerin, water, Isopropyl alcohol, and/or witch hazel.
Colorants will typically be pigments. Some people may ask why dyes aren’t used. The reason is that dyes would need a chemical reaction with the skin to create a color and to be able to stay in place, whereas a pigment does not. Pigment is held into place by intermolecular or physical forces.
Pigments are derived from mineral and geological sources to produce colors and hues. Carbon (carbon black) and iron oxides are used to produce black ink. Cinnabar (a mercury sulfide) compound is used to make red hues. Cadmium compounds such as cadmium red and cadmium yellow are used to make shades of red, yellow and orange.
Inks include additives such as surfactants, binding agents, fillers and preservatives. Many of these agents are employed together to keep them in uniform suspension to avoid microorganism growth after opening. 20 years ago ink manufactures stopped using mineral based compounds and started using organic pigments.
It is a common misconception that tattoo ink fades from prolonged exposure to the sun. In actuality, tattoos may fade due to the fact that your immune system starts to succeed in breaking up the pigmentation, as if it is a virus.
Let’s not forget that a tattoo creates wounds and introduces a foreign substance in your body and the body naturally wants to fight it off. Ok, let’s move on.
Lining Inks and Shading
Lining inks: used for outlining the tattoo before the coloring and shading is done. Believe it or not, lining ink is usually done with drawing ink. Artists have been using drawing inks for years to do lining work, as they find it is easier to work with.
A problem with using tattoo lining inks is that the alcohol content tends to ruin the purple stencil on the skin. It is also thicker and makes it harder to get the proper line work done rapidly.
Shading: Artists have different opinions of what shading is. Some will argue shading and coloring are the same, while others argue it is not. In my opinion, they are different. Shading takes time and practice. It uses a circular motion creating nice gradients.
Some Artists will use a flicking motion while they gradually lift up to go from a dark to light affect, while some will scrub across the skin and use the pressure from their hand to get dark to light. You can really tell one’s artistic abilities by their shading work.
Coloring in my opinion is pretty self-explanatory. It is the process of adding color in the artwork. Something to watch out for are the problems that can occur if the coloring is not done correctly. Plowing in the color, going over an area too many times, or staying in an area too long can cause more trauma to the skin then needed.
This can cause excessive scabbing which will pull the ink out. Something to keep in mind is that colors look different on different skin tones. Also, skin on an older person can take inks differently. A good artist will explain all of this to a client if he/she feels the color won’t be what is expected.
Inks Have Come a Long Way
Manufactures have come out with some of the most brilliant colors and artists are creating some beautiful art with them. We’ve come a long way in the world of tattooing. We have gone from dull and boring to glow in the dark, ultra violet, 3D art, and not to mention sound bars.
This is where you can pick a song or something voiced, and the sound bar is tattooed and can be played via an app as you run your phone along it. This is one I personally wouldn’t recommended, but that’s for another time.
Rock your success, David